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[Off The Record]
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Despite the contradiction in the title — NYC " garage " is not anything like " deep house " — the 30 tracks in this three-CD set, mixed by lesser-known DJs Skooby, Nissan, and Ram, come just in time to level out the overload of trance on dance music’s scales. Garage was at its onset in the late 1980s a welcoming, open-arms sound, and it remains that. Silky in tone, featuring piano riffs and boppy rhythms, and sung mostly by comfortably soulful women (but once in a while by a Mr. Nice Guy or two), it counters every aspect of trance’s chilly airs, metallic textures, and disembodied morbidity.

The garage tracks mixed here take you right back to those early days of house, the 1986-’88 years, when New York’s Paradise Garage still reigned and women singers like Kym Mazelle and Charvoni established the idiom’s voice: intense but soft, high in pitch but sweet, a friendly nimbleness more mature than teenybop, more youthful than the serious sound of disco’s sophisticates. Almost all the singers adhere to form, maintaining the feeling without imposing on it. Remembering Latanza Brown, Brenda K. Starr, Laura Desire, Octavia, Kim Cummings, Althea McQueen, or Karen Pollack (where have these last two been the past eight years?) is barely an option, but when the feeling gets this rhapsodic, elegant, and kissy-sweet, sending trance back to its emotional icebox, who cares what the voice credits say? A special treat is DJ Nissan’s disc, which is devoted to the Mr. Nice Guy vocals (Michael Watford, Urban Soul, Frank Jones especially) unique to house at its finest.


Issue Date: May 17 - 23, 2001

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